Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Bliss of Traveling on Business

I just got back from 5 days at the Woods Hole Film Festival, where my feature film "In Montauk" won the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature.   It was a great trip.  And now I'm going to tell you a secret.  I love to travel on business.  On film business, anyway.  Not that I have to do it that often.  Sure, I miss my kids, but there's something indulgent about waking up in the morning because I want to, not because I have to.  There's something freeing about getting back to my room at 3 am and not having to worry about whether or not I'll be awake enough in the morning to get the kids breakfast and get them off to camp.  It's quite a relief to be able to sit and talk to someone for hours without feeling like I'm neglecting the kids, or worse, having them say every two minutes "Come on, Mom! Are we going, yet?"  Or to do something completely spontaneously, like going sailing because I don't have anywhere else I have to be.  But then, when I finally come home, I'm greeted with hugs and kisses and questions.  "How was it?"  "Did you have fun?"  And then I remember that I actually like my kids.  I like to be around them.  Being there for them is a small price to pay for having them in my life.  Okay, it doesn't always feel like a small price, but one that's worth it.  Until my next trip.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Sign the Petition for more Diversity

Melissa Silverstein (my personal hero), blogger of Women & Hollywood has started a petition asking the jurors of Cannes to consider the lack of women in competition this year and to find ways to include more women directors. Over 1000 people have signed. Many more are needed.

Please take a moment to sign the petition.  It matters.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Some stats on Female Directors

I read a lot about women in Hollywood, at film festivals and in the independent film world and in the last few years as I've worked to make my first feature, I've become much more aware of some of the depressing statistics about women in the field. There is a yearly report put out by The Center for the study of Women in Televison & Film at San Diego State University called The Celluloid Ceiling. Here are some of the facts:

 - In 2011, women comprised 18% of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors working on the top 250 domestic grossing films. This represents an increase of 2 percentage points from 2010 and an increase of 1 percentage point from 1998. - Women accounted for 5% of directors, a decrease of 2 percentage points from 2010 and approximately half the percentage of women directors working in 1998.

- 38% of films employed 0 or 1 woman in the roles considered, 23% employed 2 women, 30% employed 3 to 5 women, and 7% employed 6 to 9 women.

One of the common arguments executives make against hiring women filmmakers is that their films won't make money. To that I add this statistic:

 - Examining the top 100 worldwide grossing films of 2007, the study found that when women and men filmmakers have similar budgets for their films, the resulting box office grosses are also similar. In other words, the sex of filmmakers does not determine box office grosses.

As a female director I find these statistics depressing.  As the mother of a girl, I find them distressing.  You may say it doesn't matter whether a man or a woman directs a film, what matters is the quality.  But all films are not created equal.  When women work behind-the-scenes, the number of on-screen women increases.  And more on-screen women means more diversity in the women depicted.  I want my daughter to see herself reflected onscreen, to see roles to aspire to, even to see imperfect women and girls who make mistakes and make fools of themselves.  And I want my son to see women as more than eye-candy. The Geena Davis Institute has done numerous studies on gender disparity in media and what it's teaching our children.

You may ask yourself how you can make a difference.  I'm voting for female filmmakers with my box-office dollars.  The last few films I saw at the theater were female-directed or female-centric.  How to find these films?

Here are some great blogs to help:

Women & Hollywood by Melissa Silverstein (my old standby)
Bitch Flicks - feminist film reviews
Thelma Adams on Reel Women - recently discovered

Go out and find your feminine side!  And let me know if you have any great blogs or sites to add to this list.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Just Do It at Women & Hollywood

I've been thinking a lot lately about how long I waited for someone to give me permission to make a film. It took me a long time to realize that it was something that I just needed to do with whatever resources I had. You can read about it at Women & Hollywood where I provided a guest post to Melissa Silverstein's blog at IndieWire.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Women's Film Festivals

After my last rant, um, I mean, post, I realized that I need to get out there and find my audience. Women are my primary target for "In Montauk" and therefore I need to do more investigation on that front. So imagine my excitement when I discovered a list of International Women's Film Festivals on Marian Evan's blog, Wellywood Woman. She includes festivals from all around the world, including several that I've never heard of. We met on twitter (@devt), and connected in the comments section of Melissa Silverstein's blog, Women & Hollywood on IndieWire. Marian is a fabulous resource for female filmmakers. I feel the beginnings of a new online community coming on!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Naked Filmmaking

Aha! I got your attention, didn't I? I'm seriously thinking about sending out a press release about how my preferred method to make films is in the nude. I could quote myself saying something like, "I like to direct in the buff to show solidarity with my actors, so that they feel that I'm putting myself out there 110%, just like they are." Then maybe get a quote from one of my male crew saying something like, "Whoa, yeah, it was weird at first. I mean, that scar on her abdomen, did she give birth to an elephant? And stretch marks - I never knew they could be that color. But after a while, you know, you stop looking because there's work to be done." And of course a quote from a female crew-member, "I think the female form is beautiful. I don't see what the big deal is. Deal with it." Now that would be a story.

Because it seems like making a good, solid film about a woman struggling with the real issue of how to be both an artist and a mother isn't enough. You need a story to go with it. Maybe the fact that I made this film while being a full-time mother to my now-10-year-old twins while my husband worked 12 hours/day isn't enough of a story. Perhaps if I'd been a single mother of 14, who suckled twins at my breasts during production, nay during takes would make better copy. Trust me, feeding my kids and my crew breakfast at the same time during the three days we shot in Queens was stressful enough. Finding someone to pick up my kids from school and watch them until my husband could come home and take them out to dinner, so that we could shoot until 7:00 p.m. in our apartment nearly gave me an ulcer. And when we wrapped my apartment, trying to clear out before 9:00 so the kids could get enough sleep to be up for school the next day - let's just say there was a lot of tiptoeing and whispering going on. But that's not an interesting story.

I have to think that a film about a woman struggling with life issues of motherhood and work is just as important as a film about a man dealing with his wife of 20 years being in a coma and discovering that she was having an affair (Oscar-nominated film, "The Descendants"), no? Women, I want to hear from you!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

And this is why the Oscars bore me...

Check out this awesome video by Melissa Silverstein who blogs about Women and Hollywood for IndieWire. I should be excited about the Oscars - I make films, I'm a fan of films, I love talking about them, debating the merits of each film, and even just getting lost in them. Yet I'm never excited to watch the Oscars. I'm never particularly thrilled by the nominees (except for the year that I knew people who had worked on the winning short "God of Love" by Luke Matheny.) And now Melissa has expressed why so eloquently in her video "For Your Consideration"

Monday, January 9, 2012

"I Don't Know How She Does It"

I finally saw "I Don't Know How She Does It." I was excited to watch it, because I loved the book by Alison Pearson, except for the ending where (SPOILER ALERT) she gives up everything to move to the country and be a SAHM (stay-at-home-Mom, in case you're unfamiliar with Mommy-lingo.) I was curious to see how they would handle the ending in the movie. I won't spoil it for you, but although it was satisfying in a movie-world kind of way, it wasn't real and completely skirted the issues raised by the story.

If you don't know the premise, the story is about a working-mom who loves her job and her kids and is constantly stressed-out by juggling the two. And it's funny. You can see why it would appeal to me. I love what I do. Who wouldn't? It has it all: low pay, long hours, constant rejection and humiliating pleas for money. (Click here to witness my own humiliating plea.) But at the end of it, if you're lucky, you have a movie. Something that, hopefully, will live on past you. Or at least until the next new innovation in technology renders your film/tape/USB drive obsolete. But I digress.

"I Don't Know How She Does It" spoke to me, in a way that a lot of films don't. I related to the main character's struggle - I live by my lists. I thought I lost my Droid yesterday and almost went into cardiac arrest because I couldn't figure out how I'd manage even 10 minutes without it. And there were funny send-ups of female stereotypes: the SAHM who has made her kids her career, the ambitious single woman who lives for her work and swears never to have children, and the male boss who doesn't want to hear about your kids, or that you have a life, and gets all tongue-tied at the mere mention of a mammogram. But there were some things the film got really wrong. For instance, Sarah Jessica Parker ends up working on a project with Pierce Brosnon and they start to really connect. So much so that (SPOILER ALERT), he asks her to run away with him to Aruba and she doesn't even blink before saying no. Really? I mean, I love my husband, but if Pierce Brosnan asked me to run away to Aruba, I'd be in Bloomie's buying a new bathing suit before you could say "Binge & Purge!" Maybe I'd come to my senses once ensconced on the plane and hearing the dulcet tones of a newborn crying right before take-off. (Or maybe not.) And, like a lot of popular present-day myths, the movie capitalizes on the perceived sharp-divide between working moms and stay-at-home moms. Yes, there are those who pursue child-rearing like an extreme sport and look down on those of us who don't, but most of us feel like there aren't enough hours in the day, no matter what choices we've made. Finally, there is the ending. The same boss who got tongue-tied at the mention of a mammogram takes a stand that is completely out of character. Yes, it was nice and made me feel good, but what I really wanted was a "Nine to Five" stringing up of the chauvinistic boss type of ending. (Now there's a funny, angry feminist comedy!) Still, despite it's flaws, I recommend the film. Especially if you're having one of those "too-tired-to-clean-the-puke/spaghetti sauce/chocolate-off-my-shirt" days.